A Delicious OBX Tradition
The Taste of the Beach comes but once a year on the Outer Banks, but what a delicious time it is
Taste Of The Beach
Something amazing happens on the drive down Route 168 from Hampton Roads into North Carolina.
Even as the car odometer rolls forward with the miles driven down this stretch of asphalt, the stress odometer within seems to roll back. For many, it’s a familiar drive to the Outer Banks, long a favored destination for people in the metropolitan area.
Then, you arrive after crossing the Wright Memorial Bridge, not so much to a physical place, but a state of mind.
For me, this trip is amplified during a special time of the year—the long weekend each spring that celebrates the food and foodways of the precious strip of land—the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach.
In its 30th year the event provides a unique and delicious perspective on the OBX during shoulder season. This year the Taste of the Beach runs March 14 through 17, the sixth year with a four-day format, and offers visitors several days of wine tastings, cooking classes, a chowder cook-off, special menu presentations at area restaurants, brewery tours, tapas crawls and more.
I’ve been to five Taste of the Beach events so far and have been greeted with sinfully good pulled pork barbecue, huge platters of fried seafood, multiple shots of tequila, chilled plates of oysters, bagels fresh from the oven, rich bowls of chowder, sparkling flutes of champagne, and warm, sincere hospitality.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to taste and identify the nuances of coffee at various stages of bean roasting at Front Porch Café, seen how the beer was brewed at Outer Banks Brewing Station (and sampled a couple of styles, too), and chatted up the winemaker at Sanctuary Vineyards.
Make no doubt—this is a special time not only because of the number of offerings but also because of the scope. I dislike the phrase “something for everyone,” but in this case there is.
This year, some of my favorite events return, like the Coffee Cupping Workshop at Front Porch Café, the Ceviche & Tequila Tasting at Bad Bean Baja Grill, a Celebration of Northeast North Carolina featuring an abundance of local dishes at Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant & Tavern, Pamlico Jack’s Rum Tour & Island Bites and more.
And I’ve spied quite a few new events, too, that make my foodie senses tingle, including the Taste of the Beach BBQ Showdown. The showdown, to be held on March 15 in Kill Devil Hills, promises to be four hours of ’cue served up from some of the area’s best barbecue restaurants. Look for everything from pulled pork and beef to brisket, ribs and chicken and live music!
Another new event that promises to teach you how to cook OBX style is the Creative Local Atlantic Seafood Specialties Cooking Class at Beachside Bistro at the Sea Ranch Resort. Two sessions are offered, one on March 14 and another on March 15, led by Chef John Romm.
I’m excited about learning the techniques—and having tastings—of the four courses: Braised Pork Egg Rolls with Sweet Carolina Dipping Sauce, Mixed Greens Tossed in Dijon Bacon Vinaigrette and topped with Fried Sea Scallop, Blackened Mahi-Mahi over a Shrimp & Sweet Pea Grit Cake with Mango Coulis and a mixed berry crumble for dessert.
The Taste of the Beach is sponsored by the Outer Banks Restaurant Association and, all-in-all, offers more than 60 events. The food fest has been named one of the Top 10 seafood and wine festivals in the nation by Coastal Living magazine.
The Grand Tasting will be on March 17, where more than 20 area restaurants and other vendors gather for samples of their food and exhibitions of their hospitality in vying for prizes including Best Booth Presentation, Best in Show, Best Outer Banks Cuisine, Chef’s Award and People’s Choice Award. The event is held at Pamlico Jack’s Pirate Hideaway.
I was fortunate to be a judge for the event last year and sampled a bit of all the offerings. The delicious, diverse dishes available on the Outer Banks are truly amazing.
And then, four tasty days later, it’s over until the next year. The drive back to Hampton Roads seems a bit longer, but there are always the memories of the oysters, the beer, the wine, the barbecue and the hospitality.